A series of essays in the Episcopal Church
By the Rev. James L. Walker
On May 26, 1940, Winston Churchill called on the British people to save the lives of the British soldiers trapped by the Nazis on the northern coast of France in a place the English called Dunkirk. For the next nine days, until June 4, Churchill's leadership mobilized a force that evacuated 330,000 Human Beings across the English Channel to Britain saving their lives and preserving a fighting force without which it is unlikely that Britain could have survived a free nation.
The majority of the soldiers were evacuated by civilians who, at Churchill's command, went to sea in fishing boats, skiffs, even small boats that had to be rowed, and removed the stranded soldiers to safety. They did this with no Department of Homeland Security, with not one single day to plan a master project, no satellite communications, no email or cell phones, with even the land telephone lines under mostly Nazi control in the area being evacuated.
They did this not in an area where the entire population was trying to help, but where the Nazis were determined to destroy the evacuees. They did this with no modern transports or helicopters, in short, with none of the technology available today. They were not evacuating people within their own country, but from a foreign, occupied land during a time of war. They were not using surviving and still intact roads surrounding a disaster area. They were crossing a body of water 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, mostly in civilian boats with no lights, radios, radar or sonar.
Yes, the obstacles to overcome in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina are different from Dunkirk. Dunkirk and the hurricane area are not exact comparisons. The problems in the hurricane area are more complex, involve more people, and cover a larger area. But we have tools today that would look like a science fiction fantasy to the British of 1940. We live in a country that has legions of government bureaucracies on every level whose only purpose is to plan for such disasters. We had several days warning. We have detailed studies going back years that told us exactly what would happen in such a situation and how to plan for and carry out a rescue operation. We have technology beyond the wildest dreams of the British in 1940. We have an infrastructure surrounding the disaster area that would boggle the mind of the British of 1940. We have money in an abundance unknown in those days. We have swarms of helicopters, hydroplanes, and hovercraft. Much of the population in the surrounding area have some sort of cars and/or boats that could have been mobilized if only there had been someone to issue the call as Churchill did. We have Hercules transports that can parachute tons of food, medicine, and inflatable life craft equipped with motors in single trip.
The British in 1940 had no offers of foreign help. We have those offers and so far, Bush has rejected offers of cheap petrol, medicine, medical personnel and food from nations such as Venezuela and Cuba for reasons that are as pathetic, transparent, and politically motivated as they are obvious. Only after several days did he finally accept offers from the United Nations and other foreign governments.
How did the British do in ten days what we have barely begun to do in nearly the same time? The British had a leader. We have Bush.
Peace, Father James Lee Walker +
St. Wilfrid of York Parish
Huntington Beach, CA
The Diocese of Los Angeles
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